Status and Trends of Biodiversity
Yemen hosts a variety of ecosystems and habitats, ranging from coastal mangroves, shrub lands and dunes along the coastal plains to the eastern deserts and an array of montane habitats.
The flora of Yemen is very rich and heterogeneous. Species diversity is a result of considerable climatic changes in former periods, which enabled different species to survive in the different ecological habitats. Over 3000 plant species are possibly found in the mainland, and about 10% of them are endemic. One checklist comprised 467 plant species belonging to 244 genera from 71 families. Socotra Island is unique in its flora and like many islands, has a high level of endemism. The latest study reported that Socotra contains approximately 850 plant species, 254 (about 30%) of which are endemic. Out of the eighteen plant genera endemic to the Arabian Peninsula, ten genera are restricted to the Socotra archipelago. The majority of endemic taxa in Yemen are associated with mountainous areas which provide a rich variety of ecological niches and offer a degree of environmental stability during periods of climatic changes.
Yemen has a rich and diverse terrestrial fauna because of the wide range of habitats in the country and due to its position at the juncture of three major biogeographic regions, the Pale-arctic, Afro-tropical and oriental regions. Yemen has 71 recorded land mammal species representing eight orders. Yemen also has a very rich bird life with more than 363 species thus far recorded representing 18 orders, 61 families and 177 genera. It is a home to a large number of species that are endemic to southwest Arabia. A total of 103 species of Reptiles and 8 species of Amphibians have been recorded in Yemen.
Yemen’s coastal and marine environment is both diverse and attractive from its rocky and sandy coasts to the saline mud flats, mangrove swamps, coral reefs and seagrass beds. Its patch, fringing and bottom reefs are known to contain at least 90 species of corals which have thus far been recorded. There is likewise a great diversity of fish (416 spp), 82 species of sea and shore birds, 625 species of mollusks, algae (485 species), phytoplankton (283 species), as well as four species of marine turtles, including the most important nesting beach for Green Turtles in the entire Arabian Region at Ras Sharma.
According to WWF Global 2000 analysis, Yemen hosts at least 4 globally important eco-regions: (1) Read Sea, (2) Golf of Aden/ Arabian Sea, (3) Arabian woodlands and (4) Socotra. These eco-regions are amongst the key areas for global biodiversity and need to be protected from human activities. But now, much of our country’s great natural biological wealth has become severely threatened over the last few decades by the changing patterns of human use and abuse which have degraded the very systems and resources on which the nation depends. Over the last several decades, the area of natural habitat has decreased or been degraded, through over-exploitation of range resources, land conversion, poor agricultural practices and the pressures of an ever expanding population with a current growth rate of some 3.5% per annum, one of the highest rate in the region. Plant populations are thought to have declined considerably, and agricultural production has undergone dramatic changes due to the expansion of Qat plantations at the expense of other crops.
Number and Extent of Protected Areas
Yemen has established 3 protected areas.
Percentage of Forest Cover
The total forest cover of Yemen is 449,000 ha (2000)